South Korea, normally a land where punishment for the law-breaking superrich amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist, has seen a spectacle that leaves the national jaw agape. A court sentenced the head of Hanwha, the country’s 10th-largest chaebol, or conglomerate, to four years in prison for embezzling $264 million. What is novel in this case is not merely the sentence meted out to the tycoon in question, Kim Seung-youn, but the fact that the court sent him directly—and unceremoniously—to jail. Based on precedent, Kim would have expected the sentence to be suspended. After all, that is what happened to him in 1993 (when convicted of smuggling cash), 2004 (when found guilty of making illegal contributions to a politician), and 2007. In that last instance, he received a presidential pardon for an assault conviction: After his son was roughed up in a bar, Kim, whose net worth is $745 million, exacted retribution by clobbering the bar’s employees with a metal pipe, while his bodyguards formed a ring around the scene.
Valérie Trierweiler’s reputation as a rather high-handed first lady of France remained unscathed last week after she threatened to set her lawyers on any magazine that published pictures of her in a bikini, taken by paparazzi while she was on a beach holiday with François Hollande. Paris Match, the magazine at which she works, was most complaisant, bowing swiftly to her diktat. Voici and VSD, rival news-and-celebrity publications, were not so obedient: They put Hollande and Trierweiler, who make a rather stout couple, on their covers. VSD emblazoned its picture with the gleeful words “Normal Right Down to Their Swimsuits”—a play on Hollande’s repeated insistence that his is a “normal” presidency. And so, the Élysée soap opera goes on ...
Singh on Mars
Just two weeks after a national humiliation in which 600 million of his fellow citizens went without electricity for up to 10 hours—the largest power blackout in human history—the Indian prime minister mustered the audacity to announce that the country will embark on a space mission to Mars. Addressing the nation on Aug. 15, Independence Day, Manmohan Singh said that “This spaceship to Mars will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology.” In a speech that ranged from matters Martian to mundane, Singh also announced that the government would “provide electricity to each and every household in our country in the next five years.” (Cynics in Delhi are betting that India will get to Mars well before it achieves that second goal.)
South Africa is a country where a dark history jostles every day with the present. To the consternation of the ruling ANC government, ordinary citizens have started to refer to the deaths of 34 miners in the country’s northeast—the result of police firing—as the Marikana Massacre (after the name of the platinum mine where a workers’ strike was violently quelled). The phrase is freighted with emotion, evoking as it does the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, in which apartheid-era police shot dead 69 black South Africans. President Jacob Zuma has ordered an inquiry into the killings; but in using the M-word, the country, clearly, has passed its own linguistic judgment.
Not content with winning three gold medals at the London Olympics, Usain Bolt has set himself a brash new challenge. He’s considering a contract to play for the Melbourne Stars, a team in a brand-new Australian cricket league featuring the best Aussie cricketers as well as leading professionals from around the world. The idea of Bolt tearing up and down a wicket isn’t as bizarre as it seems: he was a dextrous player as a teenager; and in a recent exhibition match, he bowled (cricket’s equivalent of striking out) Chris Gayle, the best batsman in Jamaica. What is extraordinary, however, is the news that Yohan Blake, the second-fastest man in the world, may be joining the same league as well. He is in talks with the Sydney Sixers.
With Luke Kerr-Dineen